Two books (beside the Bible) have had enormous influence on my spiritual life.

One is an unlikely source, about a ministry to gang homies, that is laced with profanity—Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. G (as he’s called) interacts with Scrappy, who begins to see the worthlessness of his life. Scrappy says, “I have spent the last twenty years building a reputation for myself . . . and now . . . I regret . . . that I even have one.”

Father G comments, “Scrappy discovered, as Scripture has it, ‘that where he is standing is holy ground.’ He found the narrow gate that leads to life. God’s voice was not of restriction, to ‘shape up or ship out.’ Scrappy found himself in the center of vastness and right in the expansive heart of God. The sacred place toward which God had nudged Scrappy all his life is not to be arrived at, but discovered. Scrappy did not knock on the door so God would notice him. No need for doors at all. Scrappy was already inside.”

The other book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, is a collection of Eugene Peterson sermons. Speaking on Philippians 4:13, he says, “There are a great many things we can do little or nothing about. The weather, other people’s emotions, the economy—all are out of our hands. . . . But one enormous difference is in our hands: We can offer up the center of our lives to the great revealed action of God’s love for us. . . . We can cultivate the vitality and centering of life that develops out of risking our lives in a relationship with God. When we do that, we find Paul’s statement neither extravagant nor fanciful: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”  (Peterson quotation edited)

Two totally different pastors, both saying the same thing.

Eleanor Gustafson is a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Her passion is God, and then loving people and writing. Her short stories and articles have appeared in national and local magazines. Her pallet of experiences helps bring color and humor to her fiction. In many of her stories, Ellie explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. Her books include Dynamo, a story about a man, his horse, his faith, and his God, and An Unpresentable Glory about a mysterious man, sick and begging for secrecy, and the woman who ignores all alarm bells to care for him. Ellie has three children and eight grandchildren. Visit her at http://www.eleanorgustafson.com

 

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Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. It will affect every aspect of your marriage. It can help you inform, explain, influence, and build intimacy with one another.

Good personal communication is the act of revealing yourself—your past experiences, present feelings, and future dreams. It’s sharing your fears, needs, and desires carefully and honestly. Communicating well is also about setting boundaries, confronting problems, admitting when you’re wrong, and extending grace to another.

“Honesty is paramount,” Ben says. “Authenticity—being who we really are no matter what—is critical. I experienced the lack of it in my first marriage, and I didn’t want that again. I’m so glad that Jennifer is the same person whether she’s speaking at a conference or sitting on the front porch with me. And I want her to know who I am. I believe that real love is knowing someone with all their faults and loving them still.”

When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the communication they had with their Creator and caused isolation from Him. They covered up and hid; they were dishonest and ashamed. God never intended that, and He knew that a life of dishonesty and hiding would be painful and counterproductive. That’s why God delights in His people overcoming negative communication patterns and learning to communicate in healthy and loving ways.

“Be proactive in revealing who you really are,” Ben says. “Learn to be authentic in every area of your life. Allow your mate to know you completely and get to know him or her completely, too. And when you’re communicating about something, let your mate know what your thought process is, not just the decision you made. Let her see how you got there so she can understand how you think and how you make decisions.”

How have you learned to reveal yourself to your mate? We’d love to know.

(Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.)

Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & HappinessCountdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

 

 

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“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

This morning I awoke to the sweet sound of birdsong. The feathered creatures seemed to be singing their praise for a new day, for sunshine just breaking through the darkness, for an ample food supply.

I wonder…am I as grateful for these and a multitude of other blessings?

The cheery chorus reminded me these little ones diligently pursue their sole responsibility—being the best winged-creatures they can be. They do not appear to worry about anything.

They don’t fret about position, problems, or power. They show no anxiety over relationships, no remorse over past failures, and no fear over what lies ahead.

We can learn much from these happy singers, just trusting God for every need.

Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

Our Lord cares for even these delicate creations. Yet he considers me of more value than many sparrows.

That certainly builds my self-esteem!

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s secretary of Christian Authors Network and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

 

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I heard the story of a young girl who had memorized Psalm 23 and was eager to share it in her Sunday School class. With as much confidence as she could muster, she stood up and began reciting the passage.

“The Lord is my shepherd—that’s all I want.”

Though humorous and sweet, that statement is packed with truth.

David’s first occupation was a shepherd, and he deeply understood the relationship between a shepherd and his flock. It’s from this experience he penned the most well-known Psalm in the Bible.

Like a shepherd cares for his sheep, God cares for his people, the sheep of his pasture. He provides for us and protects us. He leads us and guides us. He continually pours out his goodness and love upon us. If one of his sheep goes astray, he will search for it and bring it home.

God is our comfort in times of sorrow, our strength when we are weak, and our hope when we are discouraged. Only God can meet all of our needs. If we belong to his pasture, we will be in need of nothing.

May the Lord our shepherd be all we need and all we want.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” Psalm 23:1 (KJV).

Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children. She is a speaker and mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at several writers’ conferences throughout the US. She is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music.

 

 

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Lord Jesus,

I guess if anyone knows how rejection feels,

you do.

I know it’s a part of being a writer,

hearing “not right for us”

and “not right for our audience”

and “not a good time”

or, worse, nothing at all.

Sometimes it seems so few and far

between acceptances.

I know, I know:

You set your face like a flint

even when you knew what lay ahead.

So, okay.

I’m not trudging to Calvary.

I’m not carrying a cross.

I’m learning to do better,

to write to the reader’s need,

to study the editor’s requirements,

to hone my craft

and trust your timing.

Help me to start again tomorrow,

and the day after, and so on,

while learning to find my acceptance

and my worth

in you.

Amen.

Bob Hostetler is the author of fifty books, including The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (coauthored with Josh McDowell). He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. He is the founding pastor of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. He and his wife Robin have two grown children, Aubrey and Aaron, and five grandchildren. You can find out more on his website: http://www.bobhostetler.com.

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